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Of what real, practical use is electronics certification?

General Tech QA/Testing
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Priya Roy


( 6 months ago )


I am brand new to EE/ECE and am aware that companies such as UL offer a gammit of services such as:

  • Circuit verification (they verify your schematic does what its supposed to do and doesn't have any design smell to it)
  • Circuit testing (they verify the functional correctness of your circuit/electronic system)
  • Circuit certification (not sure how this really differs from testing, but the end result is that you get to put their fancy "certified" logo on your product)

completely understand the value of the first two: verification gives you confidence from a 2nd set of eyes that your design is valid. Testing gives you confidence that you are in fact ready for production (or at least prototyping). But the certification service is what has me baffled. As a consumer, it would never naturally occur to me to check some new stereo, MP3 player, or remote control helicopter for a "UL" logo prior to using it. You guys might, but then again, you're EE/ECE peoples :-)

So is the certification just for establishing trust/confidence in the product? Does it have implications with regulatory bodies or insurance carriers? If so, what bodies/carriers/policies? Are there "electronics insurance carriers" that specialize in selling "Electronics Liability" policies to electronics suppliers, and perhaps they only sell the policies for "certified" products? Of what real-world, practical use is the certification?

Harsh Vashishth


( 6 months ago )

UL listing is most common in consumer goods, and appliances in particular. The reality is the consumer doesn't really care whether or not a product is listed. The people that care are the retailers and insurance companies.

Consider a Wun Hung Lo toaster with so many corners cut in design and manufacture, it's a circle. Walmart buys a shipping container at $1 per piece, and sells them for $4.99, until someone's house gets burnt down by the shoddy design and assembly. Walmart gets sued. The alternative is doing the same thing with a UL listed design. The UL listed design is insanely unlikely to burn down someone's house because it's been tested torture tested to standards to prove it won't. Retailers are glad to carry such products and insurance companies willing to insure the manufacturers because the risk is much lower.

That's not to say the UL label is a guarantee of safety. There are a lot of products coming out of China with fake certifications, including UL and CE. Just look at some tear downs of fake Apple chargers. They're criminally dangerous, but marked just like the genuine products. Only trust the marking if it comes from an authorized distributor.

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